Polish archbishop appeals defrocking for sexual abuse: Vatican

VATICAN CITY Mon Aug 25, 2014 3:04pm EDT

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A Polish archbishop accused of child sex abuse in the Dominican Republic has appealed against a Roman Catholic tribunal's decision to defrock him, the Vatican said on Monday.

Jozef Wesolowski, who had served as a Vatican nuncio or ambassador to the Caribbean nation, was sentenced in late June to be expelled from the priesthood, an extremely rare step against such a senior church official.

"Former nuncio Josef Wesolowski has recently appealed, within the prescribed limit of two months, against the most serious canonical sentence, that of a return to the lay state, which has been imposed upon him," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

The appeal will be judged "without delay" over the coming weeks, most likely in October 2014, Lombardi said. He said that Wesolowski, who was recalled last August to the Vatican, had lost diplomatic immunity when he stopped functioning as a diplomat of the Holy See.

Criminal proceedings by judicial authorities at the Vatican, which has been under pressure for over a decade to prevent child sex abuse by priests, would continue as soon as the canonical (Church law) sentence becomes definitive, Lombardi said.

If found guilty in a criminal trial, Wesolowski could risk extradition to the Dominican Republic, which has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the case.

The United Nations watchdog against torture urged the Vatican in May to investigate the case and ensure he is criminally prosecuted or extradited to face charges in the Dominican Republic if warranted.

Lombardi said Pope Francis had been "duly and carefully informed" of the case and wished to address it "justly and rigorously".

(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Tom Heneghan)